What’s the vibe?
AF1 is the latest restaurant to take over the corner of College and Clinton St., a theoretically great location previously occupied by a series of short-lived eateries. With chef Adrian Forte of Dirty Bird fame at the helm, AF1 seems poised to end the space’s streak of closures.
The restaurant’s bright interior has a modern yet beachy feel, furnished with mismatched chairs and colourful distressed wood flooring. The menu draws on Forte’s Jamaican heritage, including a recent journey home during which he focused on deepening his knowledge of the country’s culinary traditions. In keeping with the eatery’s casual atmosphere, diners order by filling out a menu card and passing it through a window counter to kitchen staff.
What to drink?
The short drinks menu stays on theme with offerings like Jamaica’s signature Red Stripe beer and Ting, a fizzy soft drink popular in the Caribbean. The rum punch is already becoming a favourite among regulars, a sweet, fruity cocktail with a serious boozy kick. It’s served in a basic plastic cup, exactly the way you’d expect to get it at an island beach bar.
What to eat?
AF1’s menu emphasizes classic Jamaican dishes.It’s not uncommon for wafts of pleasantly scented smoke to billow into the restaurant’s open doors from the patio, where chicken and pork are smoked in an impressive outdoor smoker. The smoker, which uses pimento wood imported from Jamaica, is the key to the authentic jerk dishes that anchor the menu.
We started with the fish fritters, which have a satisfyingly crispy battered exterior and a soft codfish interior seasoned with thyme. For the peppered shrimp, fat B.C. spot prawns are covered in a boldly spicy purée of scotch bonnets and cane vinegar that’s impossible to eat without making a mess (but well worth it!). The side of brown rice and peas is boiled in coconut milk, bringing a depth to the otherwise simple dish. The stand-out, however, was the oxtail. It’s braised in sherry wine, beef stock and a savoury mix of herbs and spices for three hours, making for tender pieces of oxtail and a thick, saucy broth. According to chef Forte, a dessert menu is also in the works.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $50
596 College St., 647-340-3924, caribbeancanteen.ca